11 October 2007

White puddle in rainbows

From the New York Times, Jeff Leeds writes, "In Radiohead Price Plan, Some See a Movement." "It was, more or less, an accident. The chief advisers to Radiohead, the Grammy-winning British rock act behind platinum albums like “OK Computer,” were lounging around, having a “metaphysical” conversation about the value of music in the digital realm, when they struck upon the idea of simply releasing new music online and letting fans settle the matter themselves... [W]hen Radiohead quietly divulged plans to let fans name their price for the digital download of its new album, “In Rainbows,” it incited talk of a revolution in the music industry, which has found the digital marketplace to be far less of a cash cow than it once dreamed. Though Radiohead is in a position that can’t easily be replicated — it completed its long-term recording contract with the music giant EMI while retaining a big audience of obsessive fans — its move is being seen as a sign for aspiring 21st-century music stars. “To put your record out for someone’s individual perceived value is brilliant,” said David Kahne, a longtime music producer who has collaborated with artists like Paul McCartney and Kelly Clarkson. While it presents obvious risks as a business model, he noted: “It’s a spiritual model. That’s what it feels like to me.” Of course, as the article continues, "Radiohead’s move comes just as a federal jury in Minnesota last week decided that a mother found liable for copyright infringement for sharing music online should pay damages amounting to about $9,250 apiece for 24 songs. Mr. Edge summed up the pricing pandemonium simply: “Digital technology has reintroduced the age of the troubadour. You are worth what people are prepared to give you in the digital age because they can get it for nothing.” In another departure from convention, the band declined to send out early copies of the music for reviewers and has not settled on a traditional single to push to radio stations.. Various voices in and out of the industry have urged Radiohead to detail its “In Rainbows” sales data, but the band’s managers declined to reveal them in an interview this week. It is not clear that the band will ever disclose how many copies of the digital album it has distributed or the average price paid, though Courtyard has been running an office pool on the results. But Radiohead’s managers did dispute rumors that more people have bought the deluxe boxed set. And they added that most fans who have ordered the download have elected to pay something. “The majority of the public are really decent human beings who are honest,” Mr. Hufford said."